RAF Coastal Command
Overview
 
RAF Coastal Command was a formation within the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 (RAF). Founded in 1936, it was the RAF's premier maritime arm, after the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

's secondment of the Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

 in 1937. Naval aviation
Naval aviation
Naval aviation is the application of manned military air power by navies, including ships that embark fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters. In contrast, maritime aviation is the operation of aircraft in a maritime role under the command of non-naval forces such as the former RAF Coastal Command or a...

 was neglected in the inter-war period, 1919–1939, and as a consequence the service did not receive the resources it needed to develop properly or efficiently. This continued until the outbreak of the Second World War, during which it came to prominence.
Encyclopedia
RAF Coastal Command was a formation within the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 (RAF). Founded in 1936, it was the RAF's premier maritime arm, after the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

's secondment of the Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

 in 1937. Naval aviation
Naval aviation
Naval aviation is the application of manned military air power by navies, including ships that embark fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters. In contrast, maritime aviation is the operation of aircraft in a maritime role under the command of non-naval forces such as the former RAF Coastal Command or a...

 was neglected in the inter-war period, 1919–1939, and as a consequence the service did not receive the resources it needed to develop properly or efficiently. This continued until the outbreak of the Second World War, during which it came to prominence. But owing to the Air Ministry
Air Ministry
The Air Ministry was a department of the British Government with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Royal Air Force, that existed from 1918 to 1964...

's concentration on RAF Fighter Command
RAF Fighter Command
RAF Fighter Command was one of three functional commands of the Royal Air Force. It was formed in 1936 to allow more specialised control of fighter aircraft. It served throughout the Second World War, gaining recognition in the Battle of Britain. The Command continued until 17 November 1943, when...

 and RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

, Coastal Command was often referred to as the "Cinderella Service", a phrase first used by the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time A V Alexander
A. V. Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Hillsborough
Albert Victor Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Hillsborough KG, CH, PC was a British Labour Co-operative politician. He was three times First Lord of the Admiralty, including during the Second World War, and then Minister of Defence under Clement Attlee.-Background:Born in Weston-super-Mare and...

.

Its primary task was to protect convoy
Convoy
A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support, though it may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.-Age of Sail:Naval...

s from the German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 Kriegsmarine
Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

s U-Boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 force, known as the "wolfpacks". It also protected Allied shipping from the aerial threat posed by the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

. The main operations of Coastal Command were defensive, defending supply lines in the various theatres of war, most notably the Mediterranean, Middle East and African theatres and the battle of the Atlantic. It also served in an offensive capacity. In the Mediterranean theatre and the Baltic sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 it carried out attacks on German shipping moving war materials from Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 to North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 and from Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

 to Germany. By 1943 Coastal Command finally received the recognition it needed and its operations proved decisive in the victory over the U-Boats.

The service saw action from the first day of hostilities until the last day of the Second World War. It flew over one million flying hours, 240,000 operations and destroyed 212 U-boats. Coastal Command's casualties amounted to 2,060 aircraft to all causes and some 5,866 personnel killed in action. From 1940 to 1945 Coastal Command sank 366 German transport vessels and damaged 134. The total tonnage sunk was 512,330 tons and another 513,454 tons damaged. A total of 10,663 persons were rescued by the Command, including 5,721 Allied crews, 277 enemy personnel, and 4,665 non-aircrews.

After the war, the Command continued Anti-Submarine Warfare
Anti-submarine warfare
Anti-submarine warfare is a branch of naval warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft, or other submarines to find, track and deter, damage or destroy enemy submarines....

 duties during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, to combat the threat posed by the Soviet Navy
Soviet Navy
The Soviet Navy was the naval arm of the Soviet Armed Forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet, the Soviet Navy would have played an instrumental role in a Warsaw Pact war with NATO, where it would have attempted to prevent naval convoys from bringing reinforcements across the Atlantic Ocean...

 and those fleets of the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

.

Beginnings of maritime aviation

The Committee of Imperial Defence
Committee of Imperial Defence
The Committee of Imperial Defence was an important ad hoc part of the government of the United Kingdom and the British Empire from just after the Second Boer War until the start of World War II...

 (CID) met in 1909 and decided the direction that British air power would take in the early 20th century. It was decided air attack (which become known as strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

) was unlikely, as no civilised nation would resort to such barbarity and thus spending on military aviation was to be limited. Aircraft design was left to private firms, such as de Havilland
De Havilland
The de Havilland Aircraft Company was a British aviation manufacturer founded in 1920 when Airco, of which Geoffrey de Havilland had been chief designer, was sold to BSA by the owner George Holt Thomas. De Havilland then set up a company under his name in September of that year at Stag Lane...

, Handley-Page and the Short Brothers
Short Brothers
Short Brothers plc is a British aerospace company, usually referred to simply as Shorts, that is now based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Founded in 1908, Shorts was the first company in the world to make production aircraft and was a manufacturer of flying boats during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s...

. As far as maritime air power was concerned, First Sea Lord of the Admiralty
First Sea Lord
The First Sea Lord is the professional head of the Royal Navy and the whole Naval Service; it was formerly known as First Naval Lord. He also holds the title of Chief of Naval Staff, and is known by the abbreviations 1SL/CNS...

 Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, an advocate of the aircraft in military affairs, pushed for development. Under pressure from the services, both the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

, the Government increased spending and the aviation budget rose from £9,000 in 1909 to £500,000 by 1913.

Before the First World War the Naval Staff had a positive attitude to aviation and their interests were to grow during the course of the 1914–1918 conflict. Before the war budgetary concerns and constraints had kept the development of aviation low. While the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 attempted to save money by encouraging civilian aviators such as Samuel Cody
Samuel Cody
Samuel Franklin Cowdery was born in Birdville, Texas, USA. He was an early pioneer of manned flight, most famous for his work on the large kites known as Cody War-Kites that were used in World War I as a smaller alternative to balloons for artillery spotting...

 to carry out research on their behalf, mostly in the field of reconnaissance and artillery co-operation, the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 undertook its own trials with aircraft built to its own specifications. Between 1909 and 1911 the Navy took advantage of huge strides in military development of aircraft, having a significant tradition in research and development and a strong regard to long-range navigation and reconnaissance. Attention swiftly turned to ship-borne aircraft. Lieutenant Charles Rumney Samson
Charles Rumney Samson
Air Commodore Charles Rumney Samson CMG, DSO & Bar, AFC was a British naval aviation pioneer. He also operated the first British armoured vehicles in combat...

 achieved the feat of flying off a ship in December 1911. On 2 January 1912 Lieutenant H.A Williamson, a submarine officer, who held a Royal Aero Club Certificate
Royal Aero Club
The Royal Aero Club is the national co-ordinating body for Air Sport in the United Kingdom.The Aero Club was founded in 1901 by Frank Hedges Butler, his daughter Vera and the Hon Charles Rolls , partly inspired by the Aero Club of France...

 submitted a paper dealing with ship-borne aircraft and their use for anti-submarine warfare
Anti-submarine warfare
Anti-submarine warfare is a branch of naval warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft, or other submarines to find, track and deter, damage or destroy enemy submarines....

 (ASW). The Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Naval Air Service
The Royal Naval Air Service or RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps to form a new service , the Royal Air Force...

 (RNAS) factored these aspects of naval air warfare into its development of naval aviation.

The Navy was quick to begin experiments to see if surface vessels and submarines could be detected from the air, and started this research in July 1912 at Harwich
Harwich
Harwich is a town in Essex, England and one of the Haven ports, located on the coast with the North Sea to the east. It is in the Tendring district. Nearby places include Felixstowe to the northeast, Ipswich to the northwest, Colchester to the southwest and Clacton-on-Sea to the south...

 and Rosyth
Rosyth
Rosyth is a town located on the Firth of Forth, three miles south of the centre of Dunfermline. According to an estimate taken in 2008, the town has a population of 12,790....

. The use of Wireless telegraphy
Wireless telegraphy
Wireless telegraphy is a historical term used today to apply to early radio telegraph communications techniques and practices, particularly those used during the first three decades of radio before the term radio came into use....

 and bomb dropping was well in advance of the War Office. The Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 (RFC) carried out bomb dropping experiments but refused to respond to Admiralty requests for collaboration, this was as late as August 1914.

The Naval Air Wing was renamed the RNAS officially in July 1914 and affirmed its independence from any other air service. The Admiralty introduced new types of aircraft and was enthusiastic about continuing development and striving to improve all aspects of aircraft design. They encouraged competition among private firms within the design parameters set by the Admiralty. The RFC, on the other hand, was reliant on the Royal Aircraft Factory and a lack of competition led to its equipment being over-standardised, inflexible in design approach which generally retarded progress in development. The RNAS was better prepared to carry out effective detection operations at sea and to conduct attacks using bombs against naval and land targets than the RFC.

By 1918 the RNAS had made far more contributions to long-range maritime air operations than either the RFC or its successor the RAF. In August 1914 the primary role for the maritime services was air defence from enemy attack, maritime reconnaissance, and ASW. ASW was considered the most important. During the course of the coming war, the RFC would be mainly responsible for over-land operations, whilst the RNAS partook in all aspects of aerial warfare
Aerial warfare
Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare, including military airlift of cargo to further the national interests as was demonstrated in the Berlin Airlift...

; strategic air defence, strategic bombing, ASW and fleet reconnaissance. Prior to the formation of Coastal Command in 1936, the role of the maritime naval operations fell to the RNAS. When the RAF was formed in April 1918, these operations became the domain of the separate service. In September 1919 the RAF Coastal Area
RAF Coastal Area
RAF Coastal Area was a formation within the Royal Air Force . Founded in 1919, it was to act as the RAFs premier maritime arm. It was replaced by RAF Coastal Command on 14 July 1936.-See also:*RAF station*List of Royal Air Force commands...

 organisation was formed as the Air Ministry's maritime arm. Before that the role was carried out by No. 10 Group RAF
No. 10 Group RAF
No. 10 Group of the Royal Air Force was formed on 1 April 1918 in No. 2 Area. On 8 May of the next year it was transferred to South-Western Area. In 1919 it was transferred to Coastal Area where it remained until it was disbanded on 18 January 1932....

. After the formation of the Air Ministry and the RAF in April 1918, Coastal Area was subordinated to the new service but after the war received little encouragement or assistance from the Air Ministry for developing their service.

First World War

The First World War was the first indication that a specialised maritime service was needed. During the War, the RNAS was primarily responsible for operations at sea. There was some confusion and debate over what type of aircraft would be suitable for multi-purpose operations. The Germans favoured airships
Airship
An airship or dirigible is a type of aerostat or "lighter-than-air aircraft" that can be steered and propelled through the air using rudders and propellers or other thrust mechanisms...

 which carried the advantages of long-range, heavy lift capacity for maritime missions while the British were debating the use of flying boat
Flying boat
A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water. It differs from a float plane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage...

s and seaplanes
Seaplane
A seaplane is a fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing on water. Seaplanes that can also take off and land on airfields are a subclass called amphibian aircraft...

. Seaplanes were smaller, handier and cheaper, while flying boats were long-range but more expensive to build and operate. Operating aircraft over sea created problems. Few forces had the doctrine or capability to deployment their charges on effective sea operations despite manoeuvres involving aircraft being carried out in 1913. Still, aircraft were the mainstay of British maritime air power during the First World War. The most important contribution made by aviation in maritime operations was ASW defence. It was in this role that the Coastal Area and RNAS proved decisive during the Great War.

The submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

, in the shape of the German U-Boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

, and the aircraft, threatened the status quo
Status quo
Statu quo, a commonly used form of the original Latin "statu quo" – literally "the state in which" – is a Latin term meaning the current or existing state of affairs. To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are...

 of maritime warfare, threatening to displace the Battleship
Battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

 as the leading maritime weapon and the cornerstones of naval supremacy. For the British, this meant their vulnerable trade routes in the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 could be threatened by submarines, and later aircraft. By 1916, after the Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

, the Germans were forced to concede that the Imperial German Navy's surface fleet could not challenge the strength of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 on the high seas, so great faith was placed in the U-Boat to strangle British supply lines in the Atlantic. The U-Boats achieved great success in the sinking of Merchant vessels. In 1916 Admiral John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe
John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe
Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO was a British Royal Navy admiral who commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in World War I...

 claimed that the Germans could achieve victory in the Atlantic and force Britain to terms. The situation had become so bad, and militarily embarrassing, that the RNAS was ordered to concentrate solely on ASW. The turning point in the Atlantic came when escorted convoy
Convoy
A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support, though it may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.-Age of Sail:Naval...

s systems came in, and merchant ships ceased sailing independently. Added to the system was aircraft, which although incapable of sinking a submarine, could render valuable psychological damage to U-Boat crews and provide reconnaissance support which eliminated the U-Boat threat.

Despite the preference for flying boats and seaplanes, non-rigid blimp
Blimp
A blimp, or non-rigid airship, is a floating airship without an internal supporting framework or keel. A non-rigid airship differs from a semi-rigid airship and a rigid airship in that it does not have any rigid structure, neither a complete framework nor a partial keel, to help the airbag...

s were also developed for anti-submarine patrol, the airships being built in a number of types, such as the SS class
SS class blimp
SS class blimps were simple, cheap and easily assembled small non-rigid airships that were developed as a matter of some urgency to counter the German U-boat threat to British shipping during World War I...

, the SST class
SST class blimp
|-See also:-External links:* *...

, the SSP class
SSP class blimp
|-See also:-External links:* *...

, and the SSZ class
SSZ class blimp
|-See also:-External links:*...

. For flying boats, having started initially with Curtiss H
Curtiss Model H
The Curtiss Model H was a family of classes of early long-range flying boats, the first two of which were developed directly on commission in the United States in response to the ₤10,000 prize challenge issued in 1913 by the London newspaper, the Daily Mail, for the first non-stop aerial crossing...

 boats bought from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, a modified version with a new, more seaworthy hull, was designed by RNAS Commander John Porte
John Cyril Porte
Lieutenant Commander John Cyril Porte CMG, DSM, Royal Navy was a flying boat pioneer associated with the World War I Seaplane Experimental Station at Felixstowe.-Biography:...

 at the Seaplane Experimental Station
Seaplane Experimental Station
The Seaplane Experimental Station at Royal Naval Air Station Felixstowe was a British aircraft design unit of the early part of the 20th century.-Creation:...

 at Felixstowe
Felixstowe
Felixstowe is a seaside town on the North Sea coast of Suffolk, England. The town gives its name to the nearby Port of Felixstowe, which is the largest container port in the United Kingdom and is owned by Hutchinson Ports UK...

, and these aircraft became known as the Felixstowe F.1
Felixstowe F.1
-External links:*...

, Felixstowe F.2
Felixstowe F.2
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Bruce, J.M. Flight, 2 December 1955, pp. 842–846.* Bruce, J.M. Flight, 16 December 1955, pp. 895–898.* Bruce, J.M. Flight, 23 December 1955, pp. 929–932....

, and Felixstowe F.3
Felixstowe F.3
-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Bruce, J.M. "". Flight, 2 December 1955, pp.842—846.* Bruce, J.M. "". Flight, 16 December 1955, pp.895—898.* Bruce, J.M. "". Flight, 23 December 1955, pp. 929—932....

, culminating in the Felixstowe F.5
Felixstowe F.5
-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Bruce, J.M. " Flight, 2 December 1955, pp. 842—846.* Bruce, J.M. " Flight, 16 December 1955, pp. 895—898.* Bruce, J.M. " Flight, 23 December 1955, pp. 929—932....

 of 1918. These, along with the blimps, were to make a valuable contribution to the protection of convoys.

Unrestricted submarine warfare
Unrestricted submarine warfare
Unrestricted submarine warfare is a type of naval warfare in which submarines sink merchantmen without warning, as opposed to attacks per prize rules...

 made aircraft more important than ever in the war against the U-Boats
U-boat Campaign (World War I)
The U-boat Campaign from 1914 to 1918 was the World War I naval campaign fought by German U-boats against the trade routes of the Entente Powers...

. By 1917 some 39 seaplane and 26 aircraft stations in Britain were all assigned to ASW operations. By December 1918 Britain's land-based coastal air forces was to have consisted of 353 flying boats and seaplanes and 920 land-based aircraft. The actual figures obtained were 305 and 382 respectively, but the clear intended expansion was an indication of air power's importance in trade and maritime defence.

The figures and statistics for the coastal air force's impact on the U-Boat fleet are disputed. Air Ministry
Air Ministry
The Air Ministry was a department of the British Government with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Royal Air Force, that existed from 1918 to 1964...

 figures claimed aircraft sighted 361 U-Boats, attacked 236 and sank 10. It is unlikely that these figures are correct owing to the lack of capable offensive weapons. But 'scarecrow' tactics did result in 96 sightings and 46 attacks. U-Boat crews, ignorant of aircraft's capabilities, were often forced to dive to escape observation and the attention of escorting destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

 screens which aircraft could direct for the kill. By 1918 only six convoys under escort by aircraft were attacked. One unnamed U-Boat captain stated that "aircraft are our worst enemy". By the end of the war, British maritime air power was the most advanced in the world. Totalling a maximum of 3,000 aircraft (in all services), 55,000 aircrew and 12 aircraft handling ships, such as the HMS Engadine
HMS Engadine (1911)
HMS Engadine was a seaplane tender which served in the First World War. She was built as a Folkestone-Boulogne ferry by William Denny and Brothers, launched on 23 September 1911 and named after the Engadine valley in Switzerland...

, HMS Campania
HMS Campania (1914)
HMS Campania was a seaplane tender and aircraft carrier, converted from an elderly ocean liner by the Royal Navy early in the First World War. After her conversion was completed in mid-1915 the ship spent her time conducting trials and exercises with the Grand Fleet...

, and HMS Argus
HMS Argus (I49)
HMS Argus was a British aircraft carrier that served in the Royal Navy from 1918–1944. She was converted from an ocean liner under construction when the First World War began, and became the world's first example of what is now the standard pattern of aircraft carrier, with a full-length flight...

, (later called aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s), air power had indicated what it was capable of in naval warfare.

With wireless
Wireless
Wireless telecommunications is the transfer of information between two or more points that are not physically connected. Distances can be short, such as a few meters for television remote control, or as far as thousands or even millions of kilometers for deep-space radio communications...

 and new aircraft such as the DH.6
Airco DH.6
The Airco DH.6 was a British military trainer biplane used by the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. Known by various nicknames, including the "Skyhook", the trainer became a widely used light civil aircraft in the postwar era....

 now available, effective ASW missions could be carried out to the extent that aircraft became one of the core instruments in trade defence. Co-operation was also a breeding ground for tactical doctrine. But the surrender of Germany in November 1918 and mass demobilisation saw maritime aviation enter terminal decline for the next 20 years.

Ignoring past lessons

Despite the fact that Britain had been caused severe difficulty by the U-Boat campaign in the First World War
U-boat Campaign (World War I)
The U-boat Campaign from 1914 to 1918 was the World War I naval campaign fought by German U-boats against the trade routes of the Entente Powers...

, the Admiralty completely ignored the threat of the submarine until the late 1930s. The Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 had founded its traditional defensive strength on the battleship
Battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

, which was used to defend its waters and merchant fleets. This weapon had proved incapable of countering U-Boats during the war. The Admiralty also ignored the damage caused by submarines and regarded them as ineffective defensive weapons. Given the disarmament of Germany there seemed little offensive threat. Even after the rise of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 and the birth of the Third Reich, there seemed little inclination or will toward rearming Britain's ASW air forces. To the contrary, the Anglo-German Naval agreement signed in June 1935, allowed the Germans to build German U-Boat strength to one-third the displacement tonnage of the entire Royal Navy. In fact, the Germans had been developing submarines as early as 1922, despite the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 and the banning of German military submarines.

In the RAF, which in April 1918 was created by merging the RNAS and RFC, there still existed a place for maritime aviation. However the Navy expected the RAF to hand back the naval component after the war, which was reasonable considering the indifference the RAF displayed towards the submarine campaign in the 1914–1918 conflict. The failure of the RAF to do so started a power struggle between the Air Ministry on one side and the Admiralty and War Office on the other. The Air Ministry found its existence threatened and resolved to fend off the attempts of the Admiralty and War Office to break up the RAF and recover the RFC and RNAS by offering a cheaper, innovative alternative strategy for British air power in the future. The RAF, under the direction of a new Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Hugh Trenchard, adopted the strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 theory of air power theorists such as Giulio Douhet
Giulio Douhet
General Giulio Douhet was an Italian general and air power theorist. He was a key proponent of strategic bombing in aerial warfare...

, who argued that air power could win wars on its own, bypassing the need for armies and navies. Maritime aviation and the valuable lessons of the First European war were cast aside, but crucially the appointment of Trenchard and his views, the removal of the weaker personalities such as CAS Frederick Sykes
Frederick Sykes
Air Vice-Marshal The Right Honourable Sir Frederick Hugh Sykes GCSI, GCIE, GBE, KCB, CMG was a military officer, British statesman and politician....

, and the continued support of Winston Churchill saved the Air Ministry from being disbanded. In July 1923, Trenchard sent a memorandum to AOC (Air Officer Commanding
Air Officer Commanding
Air Officer Commanding is a title given in the air forces of Commonwealth nations to an air officer who holds a command appointment. Thus, an air vice marshal might be the AOC 38 Group...

) Central and AOC Coastal Areas advising them the strategic area offensive would be the dominating policy of future conflicts, and the Coastal services would take part in such operations. In doing so Trenchard stated openly that the goals of the Air Arm in no way conflicted with either the Army or Navy. This meant that maritime, or "auxiliary" squadrons would be radically reduced to allow the focus on specialised land-based bombers and fighters for air attack and defence in line with the RAF's "non-specialisation policy". In the 1920s, Bomber and Fighter forces were expanded while Coastal Area was continually downgraded. By 1920 little remained of Coastal Area Air Forces.

With Trenchard’s policy unequivocal, for both military and political reasons, maritime aviation was in danger of being disbanded altogether. In April 1923 shore-based strength amounted to a solitary squadron. A year later all that remained was one flight of torpedo bombers. Only five squadrons of ship-borne aircraft remained by April 1924. These reductions were not uniform across the service. The percentage reduction of the maritime component was far greater than non-maritime elements. The ten year rule (that there would be no major war for ten years) laid down in 1919 ensured the RAF was to be reduced by 50 percent, which downsized the maritime squadrons on the RAF to just five percent of its November 1918 strength. The Air Ministry justified this reduction of maritime aviation in light of the 'breakthrough' in ASDIC (Sonar), and underwater detection technology capable of locating submarines. As 86 percent of the First World War maritime air effort had been expended on ASW it argued it was reasonable for a reduction in maritime expenditure in light of the technology now available.

The lack of ASW development during the 1920s and 1930s was not entirely the fault of the Air Ministry. The struggle between the Admiralty and Air Ministry continued into the 1930s and the Admiralty lost sight of why it was pursuing its own air service for the Navy. It became a matter of getting revenge over the RAF for its success in defeating earlier attempts to break up the Air Force. It succeeded in forcing the return of the Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

 (FAA) from the RAF in 1937, but made no effort to develop ASW formations. Instead it continued to believe in the supremacy of the capital ship and the FAA was meant to be suitable for fleet actions only. It was a mistake most of the major powers, in particular the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

, made during the lead up to the Second World War.

Throughout the inter war period, the Admiralty had been continually sceptical of the aircraft's ability to sink a surface vessel. It was regarded as merely a reconnaissance technology. This resulted in a lack of development of a maritime strike force and lost another early opportunity to garner support for Coastal Area/Coastal Command. In summation First Sea Lord David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty
David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty
Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO was an admiral in the Royal Navy...

 proclaimed "[I] know of no operation in which the Navy and the Air [Service] have to co-operate in which the Navy would not play the more important role than the air service".

Formation and neglect

In 1936, almost 18 years after the end of the First World War, there was a major change in the Command structure of the RAF. Several Expansion Schemes were heading at such pace to rearm the British military in face of the Nazi threat that "Area" formations were now to be called "Commands". Fighter and Bomber Areas became Fighter and Bomber Command and Coastal Area was renamed Coastal Command. Its Headquarters was located as Lee-on-Solent. Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Air marshal is a three-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

 Arthur Longmore
Arthur Longmore
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Murray Longmore GCB, DSO was an early naval aviator, before reaching high rank in the Royal Air Force.-Biography:...

, AOC Coastal Area oversaw the renaming and handed over command to Air Marshal Philip Joubert de la Ferté
Philip Joubert de la Ferté
Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Bennet Joubert de la Ferté KCB, CMG, DSO was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force during the 1930s and the Second World War.-RAF career:...

 on 24 August 1936.

In March 1935 the threat from Nazi Germany prompted a series of expansion schemes which pushed the number of squadrons up to 163 (as per Expansion Scheme M, the last before the outbreak of war) and the number of aircraft to 2,549. But it was never fully implemented, and Scheme F, 124 Squadrons and 1,736 aircraft, was the only scheme that ran its full course. It did produce modern aircraft and it made adequate provision for reserves (75 percent), but again, the bomber forces received no less than 50 percent which averaged 57 percent over all schemes. Maritime air units never made more than 12 percent of British air strength. From a pre-expansion strength of just five squadrons, four of which were flying boats, the figure of maritime squadrons rose to 18 by September 1939, with a strength of just 176 aircraft. Some 16 of these were allocated to trade defence, but given Trenchard's policy (which was still in place after his retirement) of developing bombers for the maritime arm which could bolster the air offensive, most were unspecialised for ASW, and the Air Ministry were thoroughly uninterested in any aircraft which fell outside of the bomber function.

de la Ferté was highly critical of the Air Ministry's attitude to his service. In 1937 several exercises were carried out by Coastal Command in cooperation with submarines against the Home Fleet to judge the surface fleet's defence against submarine and air attack. However, despite the experiences of the First World War, no attention was paid to the problem of attacking submarines from the air as part of trade protection measures. Owing to the imperfect ASDIC invention, it appeared the Royal Navy no longer considered U-Boats were a threat to Britain's sea lanes. The Air Ministry, keen to concentrate on strategic air forces, did not dispute the Admiralty's conclusions and Coastal Command did not receive any guidance from the Air Ministry. The saving grace of both services was the construction of the Combined Headquarters which enabled rapid collaboration in maritime operations. This was one of the few successes in organisation and preparation made before the outbreak of war.

When the review of the role Coastal Command was to play in war was assessed in 1937, the then AOC Frederick Bowhill
Frederick Bowhill
Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick William Bowhill, GBE, KCB, CMG, DSO & Bar was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force before and during World War II.-RAF career:...

 was informed by his senior Air Staff Officer Air Commodore Geoffrey Bromet that the other two commands (Bomber and Fighter) had clear mission objectives while Coastal Command had been given no clear mandate. It was assumed that Coastal Command was to keep sea communications open for merchant shipping and prevent seaborne raids on British coastlines and ports. No mention of U-Boats was made by either man. Both assumed aircraft and surface raiders presented the greater threat in British waters. Thus they followed the Admiralty line that U-Boats were no longer a danger. When Admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 Dudley Pound
Dudley Pound
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Alfred Dudley Pickman Rogers Pound GCB OM GCVO RN was a British naval officer who served as First Sea Lord, professional head of the Royal Navy from June 1939 to September 1943.- Early life :...

 enquired about aerial assets in trade and commerce defence, Chief of the Air Staff Cyril Newall, replied that there was not enough "jam
Fruit preserves
Fruit preserves are preparations of fruits and sugar, often canned or sealed for long-term storage. The preparation of fruit preserves today often involves adding commercial or natural pectin as a gelling agent, although sugar or honey may be used, as well. Prior to World War II, fruit preserve...

" [resources] to go around and stated it was more advisable to risk losses on trade routes than weaken the RAF's ability to protect Britain from air attack and bomb its enemies.

In March 1937, the then Director of Operations Group Captain
Group Captain
Group captain is a senior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries. It ranks above wing commander and immediately below air commodore...

 Robert Saundby
Robert Saundby
Air Marshal Sir Robert Henry Magnus Spencer Saundby KCB, KBE, MC, DFC, AFC was an RAF officer whose career spanned both World War I and World War II...

, complained that the role for Coastal Command in war, namely supporting the bomber offensive, and second, the support of naval forces along the British coastline, were too limited and was in danger of diverting the Command from its main concern; ASW. In October the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (DCAS) Air Vice Marshal Richard Peirse
Richard Peirse
Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Edmund Charles Peirse KCB DSO AFC , was a senior Royal Air Force commander.-RAF career:...

 confirmed that there was no formal role for the service or location of its units. Peirse did reverse the decision to have strategic bombing support as the primary function. This was changed to trade defence. Coastal Command was only to be used for other purposes if trade routes were suffering little interference and the intensity of air attack on Britain or air attacks on enemy targets, required all available air units for those purposes. However, in December 1937, the Naval and Air Staffs met again, and changed the priority to North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 reconnaissance. The Naval Staff insisted that commerce raiders presented the greatest danger, and aircraft could prove decisive only in locating enemy Warships. ASW remained in third place, behind direct co-operation with surface fleets. In December 1938, this was changed again, and ASW moved up to second priority. In August 1939, it was moved to first priority. When Coastal Command went to war, its first task was to co-operate with the Navy to prevent enemy vessels from escaping into the North Sea and Atlantic Oceans. Second, it was to provide ASW support where and when it could. These steps are significant as the language indicates a change from passive reconnaissance of enemy warships and submarines, to an active directive which involved the attack of the vessels by Coastal Command aircraft.

Since the late 1920s the tension between the air and naval services had declined. It arose briefly again in 1937 when the question of the FAA operational control arose. On this occasion the British Government sided with the Admiralty. Despite a spirited defence of its asset, once the Minister for Coordination of Defence, Sir Thomas Inskip had decided to transfer the arm, the Air Ministry was content to let the matter rest. Any threat to the Air Ministry's existence had long since passed, budgetary constraint, and the reluctance to engage in another battle which would waste resources were also factors in the Air Ministry's decision not to contest the issue further. However, inter-Service squabbling assured maritime aviation's stagnation, especially in shore-based elements. Virtually no co-operation existed in the area of research and development. In the case of Coastal Command, it continued to come third in the Air Ministry's list of priorities, after Fighter and Bomber Commands, well into the late 1930s.

Early war

From its formation in 1936 the Command did not receive the support it required to be an effective naval air service. In September 1939, Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 invaded Poland beginning the war in Europe. The Command's position was comfortable for the first nine months of the war, the period known as the Phoney War. German submarines were not able to reach the Atlantic unless they undertook a dangerous transit journey through the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 and around Britain's northern waters, or through the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

, which was guarded by the Royal and French Navies
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

. The powerful French Navy was responsible for covering half of the Atlantic shipping routes, and thus contributed half of the Allied forces available.

However, the events of April to June 1940 overturned the balance of power, as the Germans conquered Denmark
Battle of Denmark
The Battle of Denmark was the fighting that followed the German army crossing the Danish border on 9 April 1940 by land, sea and air. The German ground campaign against Denmark was the briefest on record in military history.-Motivation for invading Denmark:...

, Norway
Norwegian Campaign
The Norwegian Campaign was a military campaign that was fought in Norway during the Second World War between the Allies and Germany, after the latter's invasion of the country. In April 1940, the United Kingdom and France came to Norway's aid with an expeditionary force...

, The Netherlands
Battle of the Netherlands
The Battle of the Netherlands was part of Case Yellow , the German invasion of the Low Countries and France during World War II. The battle lasted from 10 May 1940 until 14 May 1940 when the main Dutch forces surrendered...

, Belgium
Battle of Belgium
The Battle of Belgium or Belgian Campaign formed part of the greater Battle of France, an offensive campaign by Germany during the Second World War...

 and France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

. This allowed the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine to operate from French ports on the Atlantic coast, much closer to the Atlantic shipping lanes. It also put German air power within range of Britain's ports on all of its coasts. The advantage now enjoyed by the Germans allowed them to inflict heavy losses to merchant shipping supplying food and war materials to Britain, potentially threatening to starve Britain. While merchant shipping was suffering these high losses, Coastal Command had proven ineffective at countering air or sea attacks on Allied shipping. In particular, it was ineffective at protecting English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 convoys, which were forced to abandon operations for a few months, starting in July 1940. RAF Fighter Command was given the task, as it enjoyed the majority of RAF resources at the time. The strategic air attack and defence predominated in the RAF, despite the warning signs of 1914 to 1918, that U-Boats were going to become a main opponent again, and aircraft were a suitable counter to their operationsa. Coastal Command became the "Cinderella service" until 1943.

The situation would not improve until 1942. In the meantime, however, Coastal Command did operate with effect alongside RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

 in disrupting enemy shipping during the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

 in 1940. Coastal Command attacked shipping and mined waters around invasion ports. The German amphibious invasion of Britain in 1940, Operation Sea Lion, was eventually cancelled owing to the German defeat in the Battle of Britain.

During the first three years of the Second World War, Coastal Command and the Admiralty fought a continuous battle with the RAF and Air Ministry over the primacy of trade defence in relation to the bomber effort against mainland Germany, a strategic tussle which conceivably could have cost the Western Alliance
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 the Battle of the Atlantic. The Air Staff and Bomber Command enjoyed the backing of Churchill and the maritime air effort struggled to receive the recognition it needed. On the outbreak of war, the order of battle
Order of battle
In modern use, the order of battle is the identification, command structure, strength, and disposition of personnel, equipment, and units of an armed force participating in field operations. Various abbreviations are in use, including OOB, O/B, or OB, while ORBAT remains the most common in the...

 listed just 298 aircraft, of which only 171 were operational.

Owing to the starvation of resources, even as late as March 1943 the Atlantic supply lines were being threatened. This situation arose as a direct result of the lack of very long-range aircraft. Despite the enormous losses of the disastrous 1940–1942 period, known to the Germans as the "First
First Happy Time
The First Happy Time was a phase of the Battle of the Atlantic during which Germany Navy U-boats enjoyed significant success against the British Royal Navy and its allies...

" and "Second Happy Time
Second happy time
The Second Happy Time , also known among German submarine commanders as the "American shooting season" was the informal name for a phase in the Second Battle of the Atlantic during which Axis submarines attacked merchant shipping along the east coast of North America...

", the Air Ministry refused to invest in trade defence. Further delays in resource procurement might have led to German success, which could have defeated Britain and forced it out of the war, or at least caused a postponement of Operation Torch
Operation Torch
Operation Torch was the British-American invasion of French North Africa in World War II during the North African Campaign, started on 8 November 1942....

, the American-led landing in northwest Africa and Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

, the landing in France in 1942 and 1944. Other research indicates that losses unquestionably affected the build-up for Operation Neptune
Operation Neptune
The Normandy landings, codenamed Operation Neptune, were the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy, in Operation Overlord, during World War II. The landings commenced on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 , beginning at 6:30 AM British Double Summer Time...

, the actual landing phase of the invasion of Europe.

Mid and later war

Eventually the Command was given the investment it needed. Radar and long-range aircraft enabled the Command to hunt down and destroy U-boats with growing efficiency. German submarines had been sinking a large number of Allied ships in the Atlantic Gap, which was a stretch of water in the central Atlantic beyond the range of most Allied aircraft. The covering of the gap by long-range aircraft equipped with radar helped reduce the effectiveness of U-boats. In May 1943 the campaign reached a peak, when a large number of U-boats were sunk with little loss to Allied shipping. During this time Coastal Command gained the initiative. It was known by the Germans as Black May
Black May (1943)
‘Black May’ refers to a period in the Battle of the Atlantic campaign during World War II, when the German U-boat arm suffered high casualties with fewer Allied ships sunk; it is considered a turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.-Background:After February battles around convoys SC 118, ON...

. Thereafter the suppression of German submarines was made not only in the Atlantic, but also in their transit routes through the Bay of Biscay
Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay is a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean located south of the Celtic Sea. It lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Cape Ortegal, and is named in English after the province of Biscay, in the Spanish...

 in 1942, 1943 and 1944. In June 1944 the Normandy landings and subsequent Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

 liberated France and cost the Germans their air and submarine bases, won in 1940. The U-boats were thus forced to relocate to Norway and Germany in August, restoring the many of the difficulties faced by the Kriegsmarine in 1939 and early 1940.The entire strategic position, which had been the foundation of the U-Boat war since June 1940 had been undermined.

In the last three years of the war, Coastal Command sank more U-boats than any other service and continued to hold the technological advantage from 1943 onwards. A brief threat, in the shape of the German Type XXI submarine
German Type XXI submarine
Type XXI U-boats, also known as "Elektroboote", were the first submarines designed to operate primarily submerged, rather than as surface ships that could submerge as a means to escape detection or launch an attack.-Description:...

 emerged, but was too late to alter the course of events. It was not until midnight, on the 4 June 1945 when official wartime operations ceased. The last mission was flown by Wing Commander
Wing Commander (rank)
Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

 J. Barret DFC
Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom)
The Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to personnel of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against...

, GOC No. 201 Squadron RAF
No. 201 Squadron RAF
No. 201 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, until March 2010, operated the Nimrod MR2, based at RAF Kinloss, Moray. It is the only squadron affiliated with Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. This affiliation started in 1935 and is commemorated in the museum on Castle Cornet. Its history goes even...

. By that time over 2,000 decorations had been awarded. These included four Victoria Crosses, 17 George Medal
George Medal
The George Medal is the second level civil decoration of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.The GM was instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI. At this time, during the height of The Blitz, there was a strong desire to reward the many acts of civilian courage...

s, and 82 Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

s.

Beginnings

The capitulation of Germany in May 1945 was followed by a rapid rundown of Coastal Command with the immediate disbandment of combat units and the transfer of aircraft to the RAF Transport Command
RAF Transport Command
RAF Transport Command was a Royal Air Force command that controlled all transport aircraft of the RAF. It was established on 25 March 1943 by the renaming of the RAF Ferry Command, and was subsequently renamed RAF Air Support Command in 1967.-History:...

. Commonwealth personnel were also sent back home and the powerful Bristol Beaufighter
Bristol Beaufighter
The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter, often referred to as simply the Beau, was a British long-range heavy fighter modification of the Bristol Aeroplane Company's earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber design...

 and de Havilland Mosquito
De Havilland Mosquito
The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was a British multi-role combat aircraft that served during the Second World War and the postwar era. It was known affectionately as the "Mossie" to its crews and was also nicknamed "The Wooden Wonder"...

 wings were decimated. The Command still maintained strong Air-sea-rescue and reconnaissance forces but its ASW was lopsided. With a few exceptions, only a handful of Squadrons with ASW aircraft remained by January 1946.

While the command retained a minimum peacetime force and the Air Ministry had every intention of maintaining it as such , the fleet was further reduced and suffered from procurement problems. The Short Shetland
Short Shetland
-See also:-Bibliography:* Barnes, C.H. and James, D.N. Shorts Aircraft since 1900. London, Putnam, 1989. ISBN 0-85177-819-4.* Bowyer, Michael J.F. Aircraft for the Royal Air Force: The "Griffon" Spitfire, The Albemarle Bomber and the Shetland Flying-Boat. London: Faber & Faber Ltd., 1980. ISBN...

 and Short Seaford
Short Seaford
-Survivor:J203 RAF Short Sunderland IV/Seaford I S-45 NJ203. 1947 Converted to Short Solent 3 by Short Bros Belfast. 1949 BOAC G-AKNP “City of Cardiff". 1951 Trans Oceanic Airways of Australia as VH-TOB "Star of Papua". 1953 South Pacific Air Lines as N9946F "Isle of Tahiti". Last flew 1958. 1958...

 were rejected as replacements for the B-24 Liberator
B-24 Liberator
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber...

. A maritime version of the promising Avro Lincoln
Avro Lincoln
The Avro Type 694, better known as the Avro Lincoln, was a British four-engined heavy bomber, which first flew on 9 June 1944. Developed from the Avro Lancaster, the first Lincoln variants were known initially as the Lancaster IV and V, but were renamed Lincoln I and II...

 had yet to be ordered by the time the lend lease program ended in August 1945. The Short Sunderland
Short Sunderland
The Short S.25 Sunderland was a British flying boat patrol bomber developed for the Royal Air Force by Short Brothers. It took its service name from the town and port of Sunderland in northeast England....

 was forced to continue as the main operational type until the end of 1946. Most of the aircraft that operated in the command were the Second World War types; the Spitfire, Lancaster, Mosquito and Beaufighter.

The command was kept busy in the late 1940s. Units were sent to the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 as part of an air policing policy, in cooperation with the Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

 and Egyptian Air Force
Egyptian Air Force
The Egyptian Air Force, or EAF , is the aviation branch of the Egyptian Armed Forces. The EAF is headed by an Air Marshal . Currently, the commander of the Egyptian Air Force is Air Marshal Reda Mahmoud Hafez Mohamed...

 to prevent conflict between the two countries owing to the formation of the state of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 in 1948. While there, they undertook a major operation, Operation Bobcat, to prevent floods of illegal Jewish immigrants coming into Israel. In May 1948 the variety of aircraft was reduced despite increasing demand for operations. In May Palestinian
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 terrorists and their supporters began attacking British military installations throughout the region. In the largest British post-war action, Operation Dawn (13 to 14 May 1948) was launched with the support of Coastal Command.

On 28 June 1948 Coastal Command was also involved in the Berlin Airlift. The Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 attempted to cut off all aid to the city which was jointly occuppied by the four major powers; the Soviets in the east, and the Americans, French and British in the west. The joint American-British operation continued for almost a year. Coastal Command aircraft were involved as flying boats were the only aircraft with internal anti-corrosion treatment allowing bulk salt
Salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

 to be transported. The Command's operations grew in intensity. By 13 July, daily sorties had risen to 16. By October it was 214 sorties (other RAF Commands were also flying in supplies). The flying boats made their flight in using the Elbe river, but these operations came to a close on 14 December 1948, when the hazard from uncharted sandbanks and wreckage, which, in some cases had been deliberately placed there by the Soviets to prevent the Western Allies
Western Allies
The Western Allies were a political and geographic grouping among the Allied Powers of the Second World War. It generally includes the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth, the United States, France and various other European and Latin American countries, but excludes China, the Soviet Union,...

 from supplying the city, made operations impractical. Over 1,000 sorties had been made, and 4,500 tons of supplies were flown in and 1,113 people, mainly children, evacuated.

Soviet threat

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) began preparations for a military defence of Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 by incorporating most West European nations into a defence pact against Soviet aggression in April 1951. The led to the militarisation of West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 in 1955 and was met with the militarisation of East Germany soon after, and its merger into the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 alliance with the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. The purpose of Coastal Command was to help bolster the defence and guard against a potential Soviet naval threat in Altantic and European waters.
For Coastal Command the main concern was the Atlantic. On 1 March 1950 it had lost the photo reconnaissance units to RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

. The transfer was not complete when North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

 invaded South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 beginning the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. The Handley Page Hastings
Handley Page Hastings
The Handley Page H.P.67 Hastings was a British troop-carrier and freight transport aircraft designed and built by Handley Page Aircraft Company for the Royal Air Force...

 was hastily modified and ready for operations but were not sent, owing to the need for ASW aircraft in the Eastern Atlantic.

The Avro Shackleton
Avro Shackleton
The Avro Shackleton was a British long-range maritime patrol aircraft for use by the Royal Air Force. It was developed by Avro from the Avro Lincoln bomber with a new fuselage...

 was the main operational aircraft 1950s, replacing the wartime Liberator GRs, along with the Neptune MR.1s. At the end of August 1951, No. 201 Squadron RAF
No. 201 Squadron RAF
No. 201 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, until March 2010, operated the Nimrod MR2, based at RAF Kinloss, Moray. It is the only squadron affiliated with Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. This affiliation started in 1935 and is commemorated in the museum on Castle Cornet. Its history goes even...

 became the first unit to complete training on the type. In mid-1953, Coastal Commands order of Battle
Order of battle
In modern use, the order of battle is the identification, command structure, strength, and disposition of personnel, equipment, and units of an armed force participating in field operations. Various abbreviations are in use, including OOB, O/B, or OB, while ORBAT remains the most common in the...

 consisted of eight Shackleton Squadrons; one at Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

, four covering the South West Approaches in the Atlantic, and three more covering the North Western Approaches. This force numbered 64 aircraft. A further four Sunderland Squadrons numbering 20 aircraft were split between the North and South West Approaches. The Neptune Squadrons, numbering 32 aircraft in four Squadrons, covered the North East and Eastern Approaches. The Helicopter
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

 also joined Coastal Command. Bristol Sycamore
Bristol Sycamore
-See also:-External links:* on the Bristol Sycamore* on the Bristol Sycamore*...

s entered service in 1953 and 16 aircraft were dispersed in Britain for ASW. In March, the Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

 was finally phased out of Coastal Command service.

The Command was too expensive to maintain and cost cuts were made during the 1950s which caused a reduction in strength. By mid-1957, the Command had been cut to 82 aircraft. By mid-1958 it had shrunk to just 67. The Shackletons dominated the core of this force numbering 54 aircraft. The Neptune was cut from the service altogether, beginning on 31 August 1956. There was little operational action for the Command at this point. It airlifted British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 forces into Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 during the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

 which its major action during this period. The lack of funds and any active conventional military role saw the Command struggle to keep its frontline strength high. There was a brief alert in October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...

 and all six Squadrons it then possessed were but on high alert. But nothing came of the crisis.

In the early 1960s the Soviet Navy
Soviet Navy
The Soviet Navy was the naval arm of the Soviet Armed Forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet, the Soviet Navy would have played an instrumental role in a Warsaw Pact war with NATO, where it would have attempted to prevent naval convoys from bringing reinforcements across the Atlantic Ocean...

 and Communist Block's fishing fleets began operating around the British Isles in increasing numbers. The British public began taking an interest in their operations as civilian fisherman began complaining about their presence. Operation Chacewater began, in which Coastal Command began monitoring their movements, in particular other vessels that loitered in areas covering the arrival and departure routes for Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 nuclear submarine
Nuclear submarine
A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor . The performance advantages of nuclear submarines over "conventional" submarines are considerable: nuclear propulsion, being completely independent of air, frees the submarine from the need to surface frequently, as is necessary for...

 forces. Soon after, counter operations such as Operation Adjutant were carried out, which was aimed at searching for Soviet submarines. The main threat from the Soviets in the Atlantic came from the Soviet Northern Fleet and in early 1965 most of the Command's units were concentrated in No. 18 Group RAF
No. 18 Group RAF
No. 18 Group of the Royal Air Force was a group active from 1918 to 1919, and from 1938 to 1996.- 1918 - 1919 :The Group was initially formed on 1 April 1918 in No 4 Area. It was transferred to North-Eastern Area, 8 May 1918...

, based in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 to monitor their activities. No recorded confrontation took place between Coastal Command and Soviet naval forces during this time.

In 1969 the special-purpose Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod, based on the de Havilland Comet
De Havilland Comet
The de Havilland DH 106 Comet was the world's first commercial jet airliner to reach production. Developed and manufactured by de Havilland at the Hatfield, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom headquarters, it first flew in 1949 and was a landmark in aeronautical design...

 airliner, was introduced into RAF service and Coastal Command duties were passed on to general squadrons. The Nimrod was a replacement for Shackleton and it began to do so on 2 October 1969. However, under eight weeks later, Coastal Command was disbanded and ceased to exist on 27 November 1969, when it was subsumed into RAF Strike Command
RAF Strike Command
The Royal Air Force's Strike Command was the military formation which controlled the majority of the United Kingdom's bomber and fighter aircraft from 1968 until 2007: it was merged with Personnel and Training Command to form the single Air Command. It latterly consisted of two formations - No. 1...

.

Commanders in Chief

The following persons commanded the service:
Name From To
Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Air marshal is a three-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

 Sir Arthur Longmore
Arthur Longmore
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Murray Longmore GCB, DSO was an early naval aviator, before reaching high rank in the Royal Air Force.-Biography:...

 
14 July 1936 1 September 1936
Air Marshal Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferté
Philip Joubert de la Ferté
Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Bennet Joubert de la Ferté KCB, CMG, DSO was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force during the 1930s and the Second World War.-RAF career:...

 
1 September 1936 18 August 1937
Air Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill
Frederick Bowhill
Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick William Bowhill, GBE, KCB, CMG, DSO & Bar was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force before and during World War II.-RAF career:...

 
18 August 1937 14 June 1941
Air Chief Marshal
Air Chief Marshal
Air chief marshal is a senior 4-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

 Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferté
Philip Joubert de la Ferté
Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Bennet Joubert de la Ferté KCB, CMG, DSO was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force during the 1930s and the Second World War.-RAF career:...

 
14 June 1941 5 February 1943
Air Marshal Sir John Slessor
John Slessor
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Cotesworth Slessor GCB, DSO, MC was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force . A pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I, he held operational commands in World War II and served in the RAF's most senior post, Chief of the Air Staff, from 1950 to...

 
5 February 1943 20 January 1944
Air Chief Marshal Sir William Sholto Douglas  20 January 1944 30 June 1945
Air Marshal Sir Leonard Slatter
Leonard Slatter
Air Marshal Sir Leonard Horatio Slatter KBE, CB, DSC & Bar, DFC, RAF was a naval aviator during World War I and a senior Royal Air Force commander during World War II. Slatter ended his career as the commander-in-chief of Coastal Command.-Early life and World War I:Slatter was born in Durban,...

 
30 June 1945 1 November 1948
Air Marshal Sir John Baker
John Baker (RAF officer)
Air Chief Marshal Sir John Wakeling Baker GCB, MC, DFC, ADC, RAF was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force in the middle of the 20th century.-Flying career:...

 
1 November 1948 1 January 1950
Air Marshal Sir Charles Steele
Charles Steele
Air Marshal Sir Charles Ronald Steele KCB DFC was a Royal Air Force officer who became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief at RAF Coastal Command.-RAF career:...

 
1 January 1950 8 June 1951
Air Marshal Sir Alick Stevens
Alick Stevens
Air Marshal Sir Alick Charles Stevens KBE CB was a Royal Air Force officer who became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief at RAF Coastal Command.-RAF career:...

 
8 June 1951 8 November 1953
Air Marshal Sir John Boothman
John Boothman
Air Chief Marshal Sir John Nelson Boothman KCB KBE DFC AFC RAF was a senior Royal Air Force officer during World War II who went on to high command in the post-War years.- RAF career :...

 
15 November 1953 5 April 1956
Air Marshal Sir Brian Reynolds
Brian Reynolds (RAF officer)
Air Marshal Sir Brian Vernon Reynolds KCB CBE was a Royal Air Force officer who became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief at RAF Coastal Command.-RAF career:...

 
5 April 1956 1 June 1959
Air Marshal Sir Edward Chilton
Edward Chilton
Air Marshal Sir Charles Edward Chilton KBE CB was a Royal Air Force officer who became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief at RAF Coastal Command.-RAF career:...

 
1 June 1959 10 August 1962
Air Marshal Sir Anthony Selway
Anthony Selway
Air Marshal Sir Anthony Dunkerton 'Mark' Selway KCB DFC was a Royal Air Force officer who became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief at RAF Coastal Command.-RAF career:...

 
10 August 1962 22 January 1965
Air Marshal Sir Paul Holder
Paul Holder
Air Marshal Sir Paul Davie Holder KBE CB DSO DFC was a Royal Air Force officer who became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief at RAF Coastal Command.-RAF career:...

 
22 January 1965 2 September 1968
Air Marshal Sir John Lapsley
John Lapsley
Air Marshal Sir John Hugh Lapsley KBE, CB, DFC, AFC, RAF was a World War II fighter pilot and, later, a senior Royal Air Force commander.-RAF career:...

 
2 September 1968 28 November 1968

Depiction in film

The work of Coastal Command was immortalised in a 1942 wartime propaganda documentary named Coastal Command
Coastal Command (film)
Coastal Command is a 1942 British film made by the Crown Film Unit for the Ministry of Information. The movie, distributed by RKO, dramatised the work of RAF Coastal Command. It was made under the supervision of Ian Dalrymple, with the full cooperation of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy...

 with a score by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

.

External links


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